Jeff Pearlman

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Sean McEvoy

#226
One of the nation's leading quarterback gurus devotes his life to developing and training signal callers. But in the search for the next Manning, Brady and Spergon Wynn (OK, scratch Spergon Wynn), are we taking this whole sports thing too far? POSTED September 29, 2015

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Sports, sports, sports, sports, sports …

Sports, sports, sports, sports, sports …

It’s all we parents seem to be about these days. Winning. Skill development. Extra practice. Extra coaching. Being the best. Being a champion. Making it in college. Making it in the pros. Big contract, shoe deal, cereal box. It’s everything.

And it’s insane.

We’ve gone too far, and I see it every weekend when my son plays baseball and my daughter water polo. Most of the adults are sane. But there’s always one or two (or 10) pushing, prodding, demanding, berating.

Enter: Sean McEvoy.

I first came across Sean on Twitter about a year ago, and I knew I wanted him to be Quazed. Why? Because I have a real problem with private sport tutors, taking kids and turning them into single-sport specialists, so focused upon one task that they forget stuff like, well, fun. Via his Tweets and his ID, Sean came to represent the very thing I hated. He was The Quarterback Whisperer.

Ugh.

Ugh.

Ugh.

Then, however, he sat for a Quaz. And he was reasoned. And smart. And, clearly, filled with both knowledge and good intentions. One can visit the website for Premier Quarterback Training here, and follow him on Twitter here. Sean lives in Georgia with his wife and kids, and currently tutors more than a dozen up-and-coming quarterbacks. Maybe, one day, a McEvoy student will reach the NFL. Maybe not. Either way, he seems to be looking to educate and assist.

Not sure anything’s wrong with that.

Sean McEvoy, drop back. You’re the new Quaz …

JEFF PEARLMAN: Sean, I’m gonna start negatively, but don’t hate me too much …

So I recently moved to Southern California, where baseball is king and parents are insane. And many, many, many dads and moms hire personal coaches to teach their kids to throw harder, faster; to hit the ball farther, into gaps. And, truly, it pisses me off, because I feel like it takes what should be a fun youthful pastime and turns it into something serious and adult. As a private quarterback coach, you do this same job—only in football. And I feel the same way. So … am I wrong? Do you feel like I’m misunderstanding something? Why can’t kids just play on teams and learn without extra sessions?

SEAN MCEVOY: Haha, I completely get that. Sports have undoubtedly become more competitive than ever and I also am concerned with the effect of putting too much pressure too early on kids. It is imperative that kids are able to have fun, try different sports, learn in a nurturing environment and decide what interests them. The key is finding a balance where private coaching can complement and enhance this environment instead of being mutually exclusive.

So let’s start by separating the high school/college athlete from the youth athlete. The high school (and, more so, college) quarterback with whom I work competes, for better or worse, in a serious and adult world. The reality of the position is that only one quarterback is on the field at a time, and this player seeks private training to ensure that he plays at a high enough level to earn that privilege. He is willing to devote the necessary time and effort to get better to serve his teammates. But this isn’t the “kid” you are concerned with.

The majority of youth quarterbacks that I train are relatively new to football and new to the quarterback position. More often than not, he has received very little position-specific training and is fairly raw when it comes to throwing a football or even taking a snap. What he knows is he likes “the idea” of playing quarterback and wants to learn how to play the position well. His parents are very supportive, want their child to be happy, and are willing to invest in providing their son the best opportunity to be successful. I will introduce and teach proper form and mechanics to build a foundation for his development, while providing encouragement and fostering a passion for the game. The result is a confident player who is enjoying playing the sport more because he feels like he knows what he is doing and is playing the position he wants to play. Not exactly evil, right?

To your last question, the beauty is that kids can just play on teams and learn without extra sessions! The vast majority of kids have a blast year-round going from football to basketball to baseball to lacrosse, etc. and learning how to play them all from dedicated volunteer parents. Others compete in middle school and high school for knowledgeable coaches who are able to teach and develop the necessary skills that enable them to succeed and even earn athletic scholarships and play in college. For those that desire a more personalized approach or better position-specific training, we private coaches are out here, too.

Sean at quarterback at age 4.

Sean quarterbacking at age 4.

J.P.: Along those lines, I sorta think—knowing what we know about injuries—a parent has to be on crack to let his/her kid play tackle football, what with all the safer sport options. I’m guessing you disagree. Why?

S.M.: This is probably the toughest football-related question out there these days. I have two sons, ages 4 and 3, and I honestly have no idea what my wife and I will decide if/when they desire to play football. I like to think that at least now we are more aware of the potential injuries and consequences of the sport. I believe that the game my sons will play will therefore be a safer game than the one played 10 years ago or even now. I love what USA Football is doing with its Heads Up Program and coaches across the country at all levels are becoming more knowledgeable about safer ways to practice and minimize contact. Add to this the technological advances in safer helmets and better mouthpieces, and I certainly lean toward being comfortable with my boys playing. I would, however, be cautious as to how early they are exposed to serious contact. I like the option of playing flag football until maybe middle school.

J.P.: Two of my all-time favorite quarterbacks are Doug Flutie and Brett Favre, both of whom never had private coaching, but of whom were instinctive and funky and unique. I kinda feel like, had they been guided by a quarterback coach, some of that instinctive brilliance would have been lost. So are there players who should avoid personal coaching? And are there times when you, as a coach, see a player and think, “Eh, doesn’t need me”?

S.M.: One of the goals of quarterback training is developing proper form and mechanics, along with decision-making processes, that become habitual and ingrained in the player—thus becoming instinctual. Darin Slack and Dub Maddox, two experts in Quarterback Development, write about the differences in explicit and implicit learning. Basically, the explicit learner tries to process everything and “thinks too much,” thus becoming mechanical and tentative under pressure. The implicit learner “knows too little” and is impulsive, which causes him to panic and make poor decisions under pressure. The key is the ability to find balance between both methods and train the athlete to “think without thinking.”

While Doug Flutie and Brett Favre may not have had “private coaching,” they certainly both had high-level quarterback instruction throughout their careers. The ability to instinctively make good decisions and be consistently accurate in high-pressure situations is a testament to that. All players can only get better by working on their development, fine-tuning mechanics, and increasing consistency. I have never met the perfect quarterback.

J.P.: I hire you to coach my 13-year-old son. I think he’s the next Joe Montana. After 20 minutes you conclude he has zero quarterback skills whatsoever. Where do we go from there?

S.M.: First and foremost, I am honest in my evaluation of the quarterbacks that I work with and ensure that both the player and the parents are realistic about expectations. While I work with quarterbacks who play FBS/FCS football and top high school recruits with scholarship potential, I also work with many players who simply want to be the best they can be for their high school team on Friday nights or help their middle school team win more games. If willing to work hard and commit to being better, I can work with your son to maximize his talent to play at his best. We can ensure he learns the basic skills of the position—proper stance and grip, how to take a snap, footwork, throwing mechanics, run game, etc. Until he is able to do things the right way, it is difficult to determine what potential he may have. Then we can formulate a plan to realize that potential. If you/he do not believe the effort is worth it unless he will play in the NFL, then we go our separate ways. If it is worth it to your son to have a shot to try out for the freshman team at quarterback and/or continue to develop to maybe earn the starting spot by his junior/senior year, then we get to work!

Unionville High's quarterback in 1999.

Unionville High’s quarterback in 1999.

J.P.: I know you have a pretty long coaching resume, but how did this happen for you? Like, what was your life path from womb to here in football? Why do this?

S.M.: My father played college football at Villanova University in the late 70s (Division I-A at the time), so that influence was there from the time I was born. I did not play tackle football until fifth grade—and I happened to be placed at quarterback from the beginning. I played through middle school and high school as a fairly average player, but believed in working hard and playing my best. I played well enough to be a captain and starting quarterback of my high school team my senior year. Knowing that my gridiron dreams would end here, I savored that season and loved every minute of it. Additionally, I was fortunate to play for great coaches and great men who developed my passion for the sport. During college, one of my old high school coaches gave me the opportunity to join his high school staff as a volunteer coach on the ninth grade football team. I continued to coach quarterbacks and defensive backs at two different schools for the next nine seasons. During this time I was blessed to work with great quarterbacks who challenged me to be a better coach, and sought out as much information and expertise as I could in order to better serve them. My first quarterback went on to play at Temple University, my second at Northeastern University (both started games as a freshman) and I felt that I had the opportunity to be good at this.

During this time I had gotten married and had two kids, and less and less availability to commit to the demands of coaching high school football. I began exclusively doing private quarterback training, relishing the opportunity to continue to coach football as well as work around my own schedule. My family and I relocated to Georgia in 2013 and I was able to quickly gain new clients and grow my private coaching business. In the beginning of this year, I founded Premier Quarterback Training, began working with National Football Academies as a certifying quarterback coach, and currently work with 15 quarterbacks throughout north Georgia.

J.P.: So my kid is a solid quarterback. I bring him to you for private sessions. What do you work on? How can you improve him?

S.M.: In short we will work on everything—from ensuring proper stance, center exchange, grip on the football, footwork, run game mechanics, throwing mechanics, pass drops, defensive recognition, read progression, etc. I will take the time to evaluate all aspects of playing the position and address any flaws that will detract from being efficient and consistent. I will teach and fine tune his throwing mechanics to ensure that he is bio-mechanically sound to generate maximum power while minimizing stress on his joints. Using video analysis, I will ensure that your son both understands the why and the how of the throwing motion, thus being able to consistently repeat the motion and more importantly identify the error in a poor throw and fix it.

I mentioned National Football Academies earlier, and the “Quarterback Self-Correct System” created by Darin Slack is the process through which I train; in my opinion there is nothing better out there. Along with the throwing mechanics, we will ensure your son understands the proper steps in his pass drops to enable him to be in a position to throw accurately and quickly in sync with the receiver’s routes. As we progress we will work to develop his decision-making process, enabling him to recognize the defensive alignment/coverage and progress through run/pass reads. What we will improve is his ability to be consistently accurate in all his throws, to make sound decisions under pressure, and to be confident every time he steps on the field.

With wife, Katie

With wife, Katie

J.P.: You never played quarterback in college or the pros. I wonder if that at all hurts your cred? And what can you tell people to assure them that you’re legit? That you know your shit?

S.M.: I have never thought about that much, but I’m sure it does a little. Probably more so for the parent who thinks his/her son is the next Joe Montana. I do have a current NFL player whose son I train, so I must have some cred out there. My coaching resume certainly helps, the fact that I have been training and developing quarterbacks for 13 years lets people know I am legit. I have been fortunate to acquire a glowing list of reviews and testimonials from current and former players and their parents which help me stand out. As Premier Quarterback Training continues to grow, the word of mouth and referrals have started to be a key piece. I encourage any prospective athletes to do an initial session with me and then decide if they want to invest in a training package; I am happy to have my work speak for itself. Certainly now working with NFA and becoming a certified quarterback coach will continue to add credibility and enable me to keep growing.

J.P.: Back when I was growing up, nobody hired personal youth coaches for sports. You played in your yard, on a team—and that was that. So why has this become a thing? And do you think it ever goes too far? Do we, perhaps, take sports too seriously?

S.M.: I am not sure why sport has become more competitive over the years, but it certainly has. The chances of earning an athletic scholarship to college or playing professionally has only gotten slimmer, but it seems more athletes than ever are hoping to defy those odds. Due to the high-profile nature of playing quarterback, and the fact that there is only one on each team, quarterbacks working with private coaches have gotten younger and younger. I don’t know that I have an issue with people setting a goal and working hard to chase a dream. As long as we can all keep things in perspective!

Working with the future greats.

Working with the future greats.

J.P.: Greatest and lowest moment from your career?

S.M.: Greatest moment was my first year coaching at Unionville High School in 2005. The team was coming off a 5-5 season, and we had an undefeated 10-win regular season and made the state playoffs. I had never been a part of something like that, and there is something special about winning every game on your schedule.

Lowest moment in my career was the previous year at Avon Grove High School. We had just started the season when one of our team managers passed away suddenly over Labor Day weekend. The next few days and weeks were as difficult as I have ever experienced, and playing football became the least important thing we did as a team.

J.P.: How do you feel about girls wanting to play organized football?

S.M.: I am all for it. We were fortunate to have an outstanding female athlete approach the team about wanting to be a kicker her senior season one year at Unionville High School. All she did was outwork almost everyone on the team, prove everyone wrong who doubted her and won the starting kicking job. She could not have been a better addition to the team, and was as consistent and accurate on extra points as anyone I have ever been around.

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QUAZ EXPRESS WITH SEAN MCEVOY:

• Rank in order (favorite to least): Ryan Fitzpatrick, peaches, The Underground, Devon White, The Hulk, Matthew Broderick, Wal-Mart, Donald Driver, nail salons, Hozier, lemon squares: The Hulk, Wal-Mart, lemon squares, Ryan Fitzpatrick, peaches, Matthew Broderick, Devon White, The Underground, Hozier, nail salons, Donald Driver

Matt Ryan and Joe Flacco were selected in the same draft. Who has had the better career, and who do you take with one big game to win?: I mentioned my Villanova connection earlier, so I hate to pick a Delaware guy … but Joe Flacco

• I just watched a video of Justin Bieber covering Boys II Men’s “I’ll Make Love to You.” How can you help me recover?: Seems like only alcohol will do the trick here – I go scotch but whatever your preference..

• One question you would ask Kara DioGuardi were she here right now?: I HATE that I know who this is..

• Five greatest quarterbacks of your lifetime?: No order—Joe Montana, John Elway, Dan Marino, Tom Brady, Peyton Manning.

• Three memories from your first date: We teach quarterbacks to have a short memory (forget about interceptions and move on). In that vein I have more than likely repressed any memories of that disaster.

• How did you propose to your wife?: We were down in Wildwood, N.J. for the week, staying at her family’s beach house. Her grandfather had built the house, and Katie had grown up spending summers down the beach with her parents and grandparents. As both of Katie’s grandparents had recently passed away, the house had even greater meaning. Right before we left to go home after a great week, I talked her into a picture in front of the beach house. Immediately after the picture, I knelt down and proposed.

 • Do you aggressively pop zits or sorta let them chill?: Pop them

• The next president of the United States will be …: Ah—now we get political and I lose half my clients. But probably Hillary

• Would you rather walk up to LeBron James at an autograph signing and lick his face or walk naked through your nearby mall while singing Justin Bieber covering Boys II Men’s “I’ll Make Love to You”?: Come over here LeBron …

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Once again, Jeff Pearlman has produced an exhaustively researched, elegantly written book that re-creates one of the most colorful and memorable teams of the modern era. No basketball fan's bookshelf will be complete without it.

— Seth Davis, author of Wooden: A Coach's Life